The KBW Bank Index rose 4.26% Wednesday on expectations of positive earnings news from some of the industry's giants.
"With the prospects of strong earnings from JPMorgan" Chase & Co., and a likely "better-than-expected earnings report from Bank of America Corp. on Friday, financials are leading the market," said Gary Townsend, the chief executive officer of Hill-Townsend Capital LLC.
JPMorgan Chase rose 4.5% and B of A rose 4%.
Other gainers included Wells Fargo & Co., which rose 3.7%, PNC Financial Services Group Inc., which rose 5.9%, U.S. Bancorp, which rose 3% and Citigroup Inc., which rose 25 cents, to $3.17.
Among the regionals, SunTrust Banks Inc. rose 4.9%, Capital One Financial Corp. rose 11.8%, BB&T Corp. rose 3.9%, Marshall & Ilsley Corp. rose 7.5%, Comerica Inc. rose 4.6% and Huntington Bancshares Inc. rose 9 cents, to $4.18.
Morgan Keegan analysts Wednesday upgraded M&I's stock to "outperform," from "market perform."
Capital One said Wednesday that the U.S. credit card delinquency rate declined in June to 4.77%, from 4.9% in May.
The Dow Jones industrial average rose 3.07% and the Standard & Poor's 500 rose 2.96%.
The Federal Reserve said production at the nation's factories, mines and utilities fell 0.4% in June, after declining 1.2% in May.
In the afternoon, the Fed released the minutes of its June 23-24 Federal Open Market Committee meeting. While the economy should decline this year at a slower pace than previously thought, the unemployment rate will likely surpass 10%, the committee said.
Separately, the Labor Department said consumer prices rose 0.7% in June. Economists on average had predicted a 0.6% rise.